Since resurrecting the venerable Camaro after a sever-year absence, Chevrolet has enjoyed considerable success with its traditional front-engine, rear-wheel-drive muscle car.
Reintroduced as a 2010 model, the fifth-generation Camaro has been a hit with buyers and generally well received among critics as well.
As is the case with many General Motors models, there has been a progression of models and improvements over the years. The basic Camaro coupe debuted has a 2010 model, followed a year later by a convertible variant. After that came the road-race ready 1LE, the über high-performance ZL1 and for 2014, the return of the legendary Z28.
Throw in a couple of different trim levels, and there are a whole lot of choices for Camaro aficionados of every taste and budget. But they need to choose fairly quickly: The current Camaro will be replaced in the 2016 model year by the sixth-generation model, which will be considerably smaller and lighter.
For the 2014 model line, the Camaro gets some subtle, but effective cosmetic tweaks. The old quad taillights are gone, replaced by narrow horizontal ones and up front, there’s a new, thinner grille. On SS models, the hood is changed and looks more like the one on the ZL1. Individually, none of these changes is earth shattering, but collectively they do a good job freshening the Camaro’s appearance.
One more significant upgrade is the availability of Recaro high-performance bucket seats on all V-8 Camaro models. There are also three new colors for 2014 and a new blue interior trim package, but by and large the package is familiar to anyone who’s driven an earlier fifth-generation Camaro.
Our test car was a 2014 Camaro SS convertible in Red Rock Metallic, one of the attractive new hues, with a black interior. The SS comes with a hair-chested, 6.2-liter V-8 engine that produces 426 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. The lesser LT and LS models come with a perfectly serviceable 323-horsepower V-6 engine. Six-speed gearboxes are available in either manual or automatic form; the one in our test car was a manual.
In terms of options, our tester had the $1,350 RS package, which comes with HID headlamps and LED halo ring, plus LED tail lamps; the $895 dual-mode performance exhaust; a $795 nav system and the $470 black strip package. Add it all up, and the as-tested price was $46,360. Not cheap, certainly, but not outrageous, either.
The convertible top opens and closes with a firm twist of the center latch and then the push of a button. It’s fast and easy to use.
For Camaro fans, the good news is that the 2014 model’s fundamental virtues remain intact. The big, torque-rich V-8 burbles like a 1960s NHRA race motor, especially with the high-performance exhaust. The tactile sensation created by the engine’s noise and the rumble it sets off is damned near perfect. It just feels so right. The gearbox shifts easily, if firmly. Acceleration is brisk, though, the Camaro doesn’t feel quite as fast as its 0-60 miles-per-hour time of 4.5 seconds would suggest.
Still, when driven at speed, the new 2014 Camaro feels pretty much like a throwback high-performance car should, full of sound, fury and attitude. If you weren’t around when the original muscle car era crested in about 1969 or ’70, the new Camaro will take you there pretty quickly. It’s instant nostalgia and that’s a good thing.
There are, of course, a few vices. With a curb weight of more than two tons, the Camaro SS isn’t as nimble as it should be. Almost every function — clutch, steering, opening and closing of doors — feels heavy. It takes a fair amount of effort to drive, though not everyone will view that as a bad thing. Some will see it as a way to separate the drivers from the poseurs. Fuel mileage is just OK at 16 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg.
The biggest bugaboo about the fifth-generation Camaro has always been external visibility, which ceases to be an issue with the top down. With the top up, it’s no worse than it is in the coupe, which is sort of damning with faint praise. Still, best to leave the top down.
The interior of the Camaro is better than it was when it came out in 2010, although you’re still not going to mistake it for a luxury car. Much to my surprise, I was able to fit my teenagers both in the back without complaint, although they certainly wouldn’t want to drive cross country in back, Still, the fact that we got all four of is in the Camaro with the top down was good.
In the end, the 2014 Camaro has evolved nicely from the original concept. If you like this type of car, the Camaro is an excellent choice. It’s not going to appeal to every driver, and it isn’t supposed to. But on a crisp fall day in North Carolina, with the sun shining brightly, the top down and the radio cranked, it was a whole lot of fun.
VEHICLE TYPE: Four passenger convertible, rear-wheel drive.
ENGINE: 6.2-liter V-8, 426 horsepower 420 pound-feet of torque.
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual.
WHEELBASE: 112.3 inches.
OVERALL LENGTH: 190.6 inches.
CURB WEIGHT: 4,116 pounds.
EPA MILEAGE RATING: 16 city, 24highway.